Stage 12 of the Tour de France was billed as one of the toughest stages of the 2017 edition and it didn’t disappoint with Stefan Küng in the breakaway and Damiano Caruso moving up to 14th overall.
After two flat stages, there were many teams on the look out for the breakaway and it took multiple attempts, including one from Alessandro De Marchi, before Küng joined 11 other riders to form the day’s breakaway.
The breakaway’s advantage reached a maximum of 6’30” after 100km of racing and slowly started to come down as they approached the Col de Menté.
As the group turned onto the hors categorie Port de Balès, Küng lifted the pace of the breakaway, before the group split apart halfway up the climb.
Küng initially made the first group before dropping back and joining the reduced yellow jersey group, featuring Caruso.
Up ahead, Steve Cummings (Team Dimension Data) was the last breakaway rider to remain in front and was had a two-minute advantage at the base of the Col de Peyresourde.
Caruso held on for as long as possible on the climb and once he was distanced along with many other riders on the ascent, he continued to ride at his own pace and minimized his time loss in the tricky finale.
The battle for the yellow jersey played out in the final 500 meters of the stage with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) taking the win and Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) inheriting the yellow jersey.
Caruso crossed the line in 13th place, 2’11” back from Bardet and moved up to 14th place overall with nine stages to go.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“Today was, I think, the hardest stage in the Tour de France because it was really long and the final climb was with a really high tempo. At the end, my tank was empty. But, it was a good ride for me and the team. I’m happy because my shape is good and I want to keep my position and maybe improve it. Tomorrow is going to be a brutal stage, so now it’s important to recover as much as possible. But tomorrow will be like a long time trial.”
“The objective was to have someone in the breakaway but I didn’t really try too hard. I was at the front of the peloton after 25km and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) went. I was on his wheel so we went. We didn’t have a huge advantage because with all of the climbs at the end, it was hard. I tried as hard as I could but I felt that I was 80kg and not 60kg.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“I’m really happy with what Damiano Caruso did today. It was amazing. There were only ten riders in front and as we know, we brought Damiano here in support of Richie Porte. I’m really happy with the great reaction he has given. It was great to have Stefan Küng in the breakaway of the day. He rode really well but the parcours was not the best for him. It was a good stage for the team and I’m sure if we fight like this we can bring something home. Tomorrow we will have another breakaway, more for the climbers. I expect a fast start with attacks immediately on the climb.”